Novak Djokovic will play his first match at a Major since his default at the US Open.
But Tuesday’s most intriguing matchups feature home favorites. A pair of French veterans will be underdogs against two top 10 men’s seeds, while the women’s French No.1 tries to bounce back after one of the bigger chokes in recent memory. And a day after two ATP top 10 seeds were upset, two other top 10 men look to rebound after disappointing losses in New York. By the end of the day, the first round of singles play should be complete in Paris.
Denis Shapovalov (9) vs. Gilles Simon
The 21-year-old Canadian has taken his career to the next level over the past year. It started with his title win last October in Stockholm, then reaching the final of his first Masters 1,000 event in this city. A few weeks ago, Denis achieved his first Major quarterfinal in New York. He immediately backed that up with a semifinal run in Rome, where he went down in defeat to Diego Schwartzman in one of the best matches of this abbreviated season. Simon is nearly 15 years older than Denis, with his best tennis clearly behind him. Gilles has lost more matches than he’s won over the last two seasons. However, the lack of pace in his ball, paired with his variety, can still be effective. That was evident last summer at Queens Club, where he upset Kevin Anderson and Daniil Medvedev on his way to the final. Their only previous meeting was last year in this same city, at the Paris Indoors, but they only played four games before Simon retired. The speed and harder ball striking of Shapovalov make him the favorite to advance.
Roberto Bautista Agut (10) vs. Richard Gasquet
Like his fellow countryman Simon, Gasquet displayed last summer that he’s still capable of some great play. Gasquet reached a Masters 1,000 semifinal last August in Cincinnati, which included a three-set win over Bautista Agut in the quarters. But the Spaniard avenged that loss at this year’s event, on his way to the final. Roberto is 6-2 against Richard, though they’ve never met on clay. After going 4-7 in his first seven appearances at his country’s Major, Gasquet has fared a bit better of late, even reaching the quarters four years ago. And he hasn’t lost a first round match at Roland Garros since a decade ago. But in slow conditions against a player who excels at collecting errors from his opponents, that may change today.
Kristina Mladenovic vs. Laura Siegemund
It’s been a rough few weeks for Mladenovic. Earlier this month at the US Open, she was up 6-1, 5-1 over Varvara Gracheva, and even reached match point. But she would eventually lose the second set in a tiebreak, and went down 6-0 in the third. That same week, she was forced to withdraw from the doubles event, where she was the top seed alongside Timea Babos, due to contact with Benoit Paire, who had tested positive for COVID-19. This will be her first match since leaving quarantine in the New York bubble, facing the pressure of being the top-ranked Frenchwoman in Paris. And she faces a player who is accomplished on clay. All three WTA finals Siegemund has played in her career have been on this surface. Like Mladenovic, Siegemund has found more success of late in doubles. In Kiki’s absence, Laura went on to win this year’s US Open women’s doubles title alongside Vera Zvonareva. Siegemund was the star of that championship match, dominating at the net. While Mladenovic is the more accomplished singles player, and reached a quarterfinal here three years ago, Siegemund has won two of their three meetings. All three matches have been close, with two contested on clay. Kiki claimed their most recent encounter, last May in the qualifying rounds of Madrid. Their polar opposite experiences at the US Open could prove to be the difference today. Mladenovic may struggle to shrug off her New York frustration, while Siegemund should be inspired by her doubles glory.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) vs. Jaume Munar
Tsitsipas is another player who has some heartbreak to recover from. At this event a year ago, he was defeated by Stan Wawrinka in a five-set, five-hour epic. Obviously gutted by the loss, he would go on to lose in the first round of the next two Majors. At the US Open a few weeks ago, Stefanos was up two-sets-to-one and 5-1 in the fourth over Borna Coric, before failing to convert six match points and losing in a fifth set tiebreak. And just two days ago in the final of Hamburg, he served for the championship at 5-3 in the third, but dropped the next four games and the title to Andrey Rublev. That’s scar tissue on top of scar tissue. And while his opponent today is ranked outside the top 100, Munar can play on the clay. He earned 30 match wins on this surface at all levels last season. And Jaume was a finalist in the junior event here six years ago, losing to Rublev. This is a tricky opening round for a man who cannot be fresh physically or emotionally, but I expect Tsitsipas to fight his way through and advance. His talent and recuperative abilities have gotten him through challenging obstacles before.
Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Vasek Pospisil
Both of these players are coming off fourth round runs at the US Open. For Pospisil, it was a career highlight. The 30-year-old Canadian hadn’t advanced beyond the second round of a Major in over five years, when he was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon. His victories over Milos Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut were most impressive. For Berrettini, it was a disappointment. A semifinalist in 2019, he was defeated by the same man he had beaten in the fourth round a year prior: the aforementioned Andrey Rublev. Despite Pospisil’s recent success, Berrettini is a strong favorite in their first career meeting. Matteo’s power is a force on all surfaces, while Vasek is 0-6 lifetime at the French Open.
Other Notable Matches on Day 3:
2016 champion Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Mikael Ymer, a 22-year-old from Sweden who won 39 matches and four titles on the Challenger circuit last year.
Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin (4) vs. Liudmila Samsonova, a 21-year-old Russian looking for her first win at a Slam. How will Kenin respond after her 6-0, 6-0 thumping in Rome at the hands of Victoria Azarenka?
2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko vs. Madison Brengle. Ostapenko leads their head-to-head 2-1, though she’s 0-3 in Paris outside of her 2017 title run.
2017 semifinalist Karolina Pliskova (2) vs. Mayar Sherif (Q), a 24-year-old from Egypt making her Major debut. The winner will play either Ostapenko or Brengle.
2018 runner-up Sloane Stephens (29) vs. Vitalia Diatchenko, a 30-year-old Russian who is 4-13 in her career at Majors.
Tuesday’s full schedule is here.
Fanless Wimbledon Still On The Cards For Next Year, Says Organisers
The grass-court Grand Slam, which was first held in 1877, has outlined it’s plans for the coming months.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club has vowed to hold next year’s Wimbledon Championships even if it means the tournament taking place behind closed doors.
This year’s grass-court major was axed for the first time since World War Two due to the COVID-19 pandemic and was the only Grand Slam to be cancelled. Although unlike the other three premier events, Wimbledon had the luxury of a pandemic insurance to cover some of its costs. The policy cost in the region of £1.5 million per year and was paid for more than 15 years in a row. Although full details of the payout has not been made public.
However, it will be a different scenario next year with the tournament being unable to be insured by the same policy due to the ongoing pandemic. Now organizers are looking at three options regarding hosting the event with the possibility of a full capacity, reduced capacity or no fans at all. The US Open was held behind closed doors earlier this year but the French Open did allow a limited number of fans. Any decision will be influenced by government policy around the time the event will take place.
“Staging The Championships in 2021 is our number one priority and we are actively engaged in scenario planning in order to deliver on that priority,” AELTC Chief Executive Sally Bolton said in a statement.
“I would like to thank the government and public health authorities for their ongoing advice which will continue to be invaluable as The Championships 2021 draws closer. At the same time, we are delighted to demonstrate confidence in Wimbledon with the renewal of several partnerships across our commercial programme which play a significant contribution to the successful staging of The Championships both in 2021 and in the future.”
Amid the uncertainty, Wimbledon is still managing to maintain a strong corporate portfolio with Rolex recently agreeing to extend their partnership. The Swiss luxury watch manufacturer has been working with the Grand Slam since 1978 when it was named the official timekeeper. The AELTC have also renewed deals with Jaguar, IBM, Robinsons and Pimm’s. Meanwhile, Sipsmith has been named the first official gin of the Championships.
As well as planning for next year, Wimbledon has also reiterated their commitment to support those during the pandemic via its charitable foundation. The Wimbledon Foundation has set up a £1.2m Coronavirus Fund to help people living across Merton and Wandsworth, London, as well as other parts of the country. £750,000 has already been donated to local charities and organisations. Furthermore, 30,000 towels meant to be used at this year’s tournament has been redistributed for alternative use by the Foundation. For example 4000 towels were given to the homeless charity Crises.
“Since the cancellation of The Championships 2020, we have worked hard to make a difference to those in our local community and beyond as the coronavirus continues to have a significant impact on people’s lives,” said AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt.
“As the winter period begins, we are pleased to be extending our hot meals programme to continue to help those in need locally for the challenging months ahead. We are committed to using the collective strength of Wimbledon – all the many facets of the Club, The Championships and our Foundation – to play our part.”
The 2021 Wimbledon Championships is set to take place between Monday, 28th June and Sunday, 11th July.
Crunch Time Beckons For 2021 Australian Tennis Season, Warns Tiley
The tennis chief speaks out about the challenges he faces in the coming weeks ahead of the start of the new tennis season.
The head of Tennis Australia admits that plans for tournaments at the start of next year are still up in the air as he waits to hear back from local government officials.
Craig Tiley will be overseeing the string of events which also include the premier Australian Open. Prior to the Grand Slam officials are hoping to stage a series of tournaments around the country like it has done in previous years. Although due to the COVID-19 pandemic some states still have border restrictions which makes travelling more challenging.
The ongoing restrictions will be the most troublesome for the ATP Cup which is a multi-team men’s event that took place across three cities this year with Novak Djokovic guiding Serbia to the title. Tiley remains optimistic that everything can go ahead as planned but admits the decision is out of his hands.
“We’re getting to crunch time now. We need commitments from the governments and the health officers,” he told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
“We need to kind of know in the next two weeks, maybe a month, that this is what can happen: borders are going to open and then we can have a multi-city event.
“If we cannot have a multi-city event, we’ve got to reconsider everything.”
Another key issue will be the 14-day quarantine process players will have to go through. Something they didn’t have at either the US Open or French Open. The hope is local authorities will relax their rules and allow players to train during this period. Enabling Tennis Australia to create a ‘bubble’ for them to live within.
“Right now the challenge we have is the borders are still closed,” he said.
“So we’ve got a plan on the basis that there will be all open borders.
“So we’re working with all state governments. We completely accept that everyone coming from overseas has got to have two weeks in quarantine.
“What we are negotiating, or what we’re trying to have an agreement on, is that we set up a quarantine environment where they can train and go between the hotel and the courts in those two weeks.
“That’s similar to the AFL.
“The difference we have with the AFL is we are bringing in players from overseas so the stakes are higher.”
If players are not allowed to train during this period, Tiley has reportedly ruled out staging the event all together.
“If a player has to quarantine and be stuck in a hotel for two weeks just before their season, that won’t happen,” he stated on Thursday.
“You can’t ask players to quarantine for two weeks and then step out and be ready to play a grand slam.”
According to the AAP, the Melbourne major is set to take place with 25% of its usual crowd capacity and players will be allowed to travel with three members of their team.
The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 18th. Djokovic and Sofia Kenin are the reigning champions.
A Solitary Stroll Through Roland Garros
The small number of spectators reveals glimpses of the Parisian system that are often hidden
PARIS – Seeing the avenues that connect the various fields of a relatively deserted Slam tournament is an experience that rarely happens during the course of the tournament, and is normally limited to the days or periods in which access is allowed only to staff members. During the 2020 French Open, however, it was quite common to see the areas in front of the various courts almost completely empty.
What you see below is the area between the southern Grandstand of the Philippe Chatrier court and the various commercial stands that border the area reserved to camera crews. When a match has just finished on the main court, that area becomes very crowded and going from the beginning to the end of that stretch, more or less 50 meters long, could take up to ten minutes.
At the bottom of this passage is the new “Musketeers Square”, an open space that was enlarged for the 2020 edition thanks to the demolition of the old Court 1, the famous “bullring”, which was inaugurated in 1980 but has now been replaced by the Court Simonne Mathieu as the third most important court of the Roland Garros.
A giant screen has been placed in this area (to mimic Wimbledon’s notorious “Henman hill” and the US Open’s “main plaza” opposite the main entrance of Arthur Ashe Stadium), as well at tables for spectators and the main commercial stands for the sponsors of the tournament.
In the background of the Musketeers Square, to the left of this image is the tournament’s official Boutique, where the official Roland Garros merchandise is sold, while the gateway leading to the Serre d’Auteuil and the Court Simonne Mathieu is at the bottom, after the commercial stands and courts 2 and 4.
The Court Simonne Mathieu, inaugurated in 2019, was built as a compromise between the expansion of Roland Garros and the conservation of the Auteuil greenhouses. The court is surrounded by greenhouses, one on each side, which symbolize the ecosystem of four continents of the earth with plants typical of each of these habitats.
Returning to Philippe Chatrier, courts 2 and 4 can be seen – they are among those that have the smallest stands and are typically used for training during “standard” editions of the tournament. This year, however, players were not allowed to enter the facility on the days when they were not supposed to compete, and therefore these courts were used almost exclusively for matches.
Looking beyond the Philippe Chatrier court, you can see the unmistakable profile of the Court Suzanne Lenglen, in front of which there is a high relief dedicated to the unforgettable champion of the 1920’s.
Part of the area in front of the second main court is currently a construction site, as two of the courts are being rebuilt as part of the project that will see a mobile roof built over the Suzanne Lenglen to allow the tournament to have a second court with a retractable roof and to prepare the facility to host boxing matches during the 2024 Paris Olympics.
During this year’s tournament, all the refreshment stands around the Suzanne Lenglen court were not opened due to the particularly low number of spectators (only 1000 per session allowed by the French authorities), including one that allowed order through the tournament’s app and to collect it without having to queue like in traditional stores.
Behind the Suzanne Lenglen, the newest area of the facility is to be found, with courts numbered from 12 to 14, plus two training courts, number 15 and 16. All of these courts have been equipped with artificial lighting mounted on telescopic pylons so that they can be lowered during the day and thus not cause the characteristic shadows on the court that can disturb the players.
As a gift to the authorised press members, and to try to increase the turnover of the present bar, journalists were given the opportunity to access the catwalk on the sixth floor of the Philippe Chatrier, usually reserved for stand-up TV sports shows. A rather peculiar view of the matches on the main court is to be had up here – the area has some tables to the work as well as a fully functional air conditioning system.
Translated by Andrea Ferrero; edited by Tommaso Villa
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